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Volunteer Partners Needed for International Students

SUNY Plattsburgh’s Global Education Office is seeking local volunteers.

Volunteers for the Partners in Cross-cultural Learning program pair with new international students to help them adjust to living in the United States. 

Benefits of the PICL program are mutual as students provide community members with a “rare opportunity,” said program coordinator Michelle St. Onge.

“Volunteers meet someone who wouldn’t normally be available to them,” St. Onge said. “It’s a great opportunity to hear firsthand about life in different places around the world.”

St. Onge said the commitment can be as easy for volunteers as meeting their student once per month for coffee or checking in with a phone call. 

“And then sometimes they click and see each other all the time,” she said.

First-year student Jeren Berdiyeva of Turkmenistan said her PICL family gave her a room in their home.

“I try to go every weekend,” she said. “I fill them in on my culture, and they help me adjust to American culture, food — even what laundry soaps and toothpaste to buy.”

Berdiyeva said her family accepts her the way she is, a quality she said is rare in her home country. 

“They don’t care that I’m different,” she said.  

To volunteer, community members complete an application designed to match them with students with similar personalities and interests. St. Onge said volunteers meet students at an icebreaker-style social activity, after which pairings are finalized. 

In addition to any spontaneous activities, the PICL program hosts optional events designed to bring families together. St. Onge said many such get-togethers feature vintage Adirondack activities such as maple sugaring and apple picking. 

Berdiyeva said PICL gives her the opportunity to relax and remove herself from some of the stress of campus life. 

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